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Ex-top ports cop: 'We’re wide open'


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There has been quite a little drama playing out here in Halifax over the 4 Algerian stowaways who "almost got away." During the budget cutting days of the nineties we lost a line of defence, namely the Ports Police, and it appears that now the chickens are coming home to roost. A friend of mine who is an ex-Ports policeman is quoted in this article and states that there were quite a few every year that were caught. I wonder how many are getting through now?

Ex-top ports cop: 'We’re wide open'
Halifax’s deputy chief suggests uniformed presence at gate
By CHRIS LAMBIE Staff Reporter
Thu. Mar 20 - 5:10 AM

Canada needs a dedicated national police force to deal with incidents like the four stowaways who slipped into Halifax on Sunday, says the former chief of the city’s ports police.

The men, believed to be from Algeria, travelled across the Atlantic Ocean hidden in a bus on a container ship and then sprinted away from the commissionaire staffing the entrance of the Cerescorp container terminal in Fairview. Authorities eventually caught the foursome about five hours later in Truro as they prepared to board a train.

"Right now, they throw a lot of publicity at it and they say the system’s working well and they got these guys," said Bruce Brine, who headed the Halifax ports police more than a decade ago.

"And I can appreciate that. They’re police executives and they have to maintain a positive public image. But basically, we’re wide open and this incident the other day just shows it.

"They were just illegals trying to get in. If they were actually organized, they would have been more covert.

""What it amounts to is anybody who wants to get into the country illegally can."

Tony Burbridge, deputy chief of Halifax Regional Police, declined to comment Wednesday on the need for some sort of dedicated national ports police. But he said there should be an armed, uniformed presence at the gate, such as a Mountie.

"It’s clear to me that there really should be somebody there," Deputy Chief Burbridge said. "Maybe the correct balance, if you like, is one federal security resource enhancing the commissionaire that’s already there. It’s difficult to deal with a gate when you’re by yourself."

He met with the port’s head of security Wednesday to suggest as much.

"He thought it had some merit and we’re going to explore it further," Deputy Chief Burbridge said.

Ports Canada Police, which patrolled Canada’s six major ports, was disbanded in 1997. Halifax Regional Police now patrol the city’s waterfront.

"With that, I think they’ve accepted a tremendous liability for the taxpayers of Halifax," Mr. Brine said.

"Let’s say an American cruise ship comes in and something happens, somebody gets at it because there’s no waterside security and the thing’s blown up and we have hundreds of people killed. Who is going to get sued?"

It would probably take a major terrorist attack in a Canadian port to revive the ports police, said Mike Toddington, executive director of the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police.

"Had the port police been around at the time of 9-11, there would have been absolutely no consideration of getting rid of the port police," said Mr. Toddington, who used to head the Vancouver ports police.

Mr. Brine said he has talked to some of his former waterfront contacts about how the four stowaways were acting Sunday at Cerescorp.

"I understand it was quite comical because, basically, even people were pointing at the gates where they could exit when they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off," he said. "I’ve spoken to one person who said it was totally ludicrous because there’s nobody on-site (to deal with stowaways)."

The commissionaire who tried to stop them isn’t supposed to be a security guard, said Murray Lee, chief executive officer of Commissionaires Nova Scotia. He’s meant to check trucks and trains coming into Ceresport, Mr. Lee said.

"We’re not harbour police; we don’t do security down in the docks," he said. "What we do is control access into the facility."

About 26 ports police used to staff the Halifax docks, Mr. Brine said. Halifax Regional Police have five officers dedicated to the port.

"The people on the docks used to know the guys that were there and you got intelligence that way," Mr. Brine said. "Longshoremen aren’t a bad group. They’re often painted that way and some of them have a pretty coloured past. But as a majority, even the ones with a coloured past don’t like the idea of somebody coming in to blow up the country."

Eric Mott, a former Halifax ports police officer who now runs his own security company, said ports police used to catch 10 to 25 stowaways here every year.

"Halifax is an open port; it always has been," Mr. Mott said. "We’re lucky we live in Canada because terrorism hasn’t really reached our shores in the sense of anything happening yet."

Sunday’s stowaways are the first to be caught in Halifax this year, said Jennifer Morrison, spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency. It would be impossible to gauge how many really get through, Ms. Morrison said.

An investigation into how the four men entered Canada could result in a total of $100,000 in fines against theS shipping company that brought them in, she said.

"The transporter is responsible for informing us if there are illegal migrants on board," said Ms. Morrison, who refused to say if that happened in this case.

( clambie@herald.ca)

That's not really that surrpising is it? I mean the Seattle Port Police has hundreds of members securing that area. It's sad when the powers that be have not stood up a ports police again since 9-11.
Ticket agent called wrong number about stowaways in Halifax, RCMP says

TORONTO and QUEBEC — A Via Rail ticket agent in Halifax, suspicious of four men who turned out to be stowaways, did not call the emergency RCMP
hot line on Sunday but rather individual officers, an RCMP spokesman said yesterday.

Ticket agent Jeff Cox wrote in an e-mail to Colin Kenny, chair of the Senate's committee on national security and defence, that he grew increasingly frustrated
when he couldn't get through to the RCMP. He then called the Canada Border Services Agency tip line and was told by the woman who answered the phone that
she couldn't act without more information.

But RCMP Sergeant Mark Gallagher said that had Mr. Cox called the Mounties' emergency number, someone would have responded. "He tried some numbers
of people he knew. ...He was trying methods that he was comfortable with and he felt that he would be able to maybe get a response with," Sgt. Gallagher said.
The RCMP contacted Mr. Cox yesterday to find out what happened.The ticket agent eventually got through to an RCMP detachment to say that the men, who were
denied tickets, were on their way to the airport to convert their European currency and continue on to Truro, N.S., to try to board a train to Montreal. The four
- whose nationalities have not been revealed - were captured in Truro.

Mr. Cox could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The fact that the four slipped by a guard at a Halifax port gate Sunday, and made their way to the train station, raises serious concerns about port security. Public
Security Minister Stockwell Day, who visited the port on Tuesday, said he will examine further improvements to avoid similar incidents. "I am not happy," Mr. Day
said yesterday, noting the government has invested significant resources to improve border security over the past two years. "We expect our border officers, whether
it's under CBSA or Transport Agency or whatever agency it is, to utilize those increased resources to their full capability." Despite the security breach, Mr. Day insisted
that the four stowaways were apprehended quickly. But, "any time that there is a breach of security, that is a concern for me. And that is why I demanded that it be
addressed immediately. If there are improvements that should be made then we want them to be done quickly," he said. Mr. Day commended Mr. Cox for passing along
information when he grew suspicious, leading to capture of the stowaways.

Still, Mr. Cox's efforts were not without a sense of frustration. In his e-mail, he noted his disbelief and puzzlement at the response of CBSA when he called the tip line.
On its website, the CBSA states that no information is too trivial. "Your help may be the missing piece of the puzzle that we are looking for," it reads. Chris Williams,
a spokesman for the agency, said yesterday "we're reviewing how the call was handled and we're looking to make improvements to any procedures if it is deemed necessary."

A closed hearing for three of the four men was held on Tuesday before the Immigration and Refugee Board. The fourth was in a Truro hospital recovering from a respiratory illness.

Liberal national-security critic Ujjal Dosanjh said the incident highlights how ill prepared Canada is in guarding its borders. "Obviously 9/11 hasn't taught us any lessons
... and that is very discouraging and disheartening," he said. "It doesn't give me any comfort and I don't think it should give Mr. Day any comfort that the agencies for
which he is responsible absolutely failed to respond appropriately."

Much as it pains me I have to agree with Ujal Dosanjh. There has to be increased security at our ports of entry. Restoring the Ports police makes more sense to me than making it the business of an already overstretched Halifax Regional police force or the RCMP. If we can't stop four unarmed men who haven't got a clue where they are or how to get out of the terminal I can only imagine how much contraband is coming into the country.
Yrys said:
the ticket agent called the wrong number? So what. ... how long did it take for the RCMP to transfer him or give him the right number? There now have been two recent incidents in regards to security for this country. If the government is truly concerned about security, they better get their act together. Its hard to believe that only one unarmed commissionare is the only security at the Port of Halifax.
I can only imagine how much contraband is coming into the country.

Actually, if you guessed really high, you would probably still be way low.  The CBSA guys do the best they can, and get some good grabs, but our borders are a sieve. 
IMO the only reason we haven't had a major terrorist incident here is because Canada is a safe haven and easy entry point.  Once the CN Tower falls into Lake Ontario, things will tighten up and their good thing will be over. 
As ever, saving a few bucks and the rights of those who would do our country harm are paramount over the safety of Canada.  But, at least our diplomats can brag about how open and liberal we are at the UN cocktail parties.  :p
zipperhead_cop said:
Actually, if you guessed really high, you would probably still be way low.  The CBSA guys do the best they can, and get some good grabs, but our borders are a sieve. 
IMO the only reason we haven't had a major terrorist incident here is because Canada is a safe haven and easy entry point.  Once the CN Tower falls into Lake Ontario, things will tighten up and their good thing will be over. 
As ever, saving a few bucks and the rights of those who would do our country harm are paramount over the safety of Canada.  But, at least our diplomats can brag about how open and liberal we are at the UN cocktail parties.   :p

Yes. Looking the other way while the baddies do their thing is definately going to come home to roost one day. I guess the same folks who think we should only be overseas with blue helmets and 20 rounds in our pocket think that Port security isn't important too. I'm kinda surprised the Harper Government hasn't moved to close this one up. This is a Government who have moved to arm the CBSA....about freakin time...and beefing up the CF and the RCMP, I think they need to look at the decision ten years ago to can the Ports Police and bring back something that will plug this hole. Someone else mentioned about open Bases....that one really kills me. I've had NATO friends visit me on various Bases where I've been posted who are absolutely gob smacked at our lack of security at military facilities in Canada. I guess you're right ZC, we'll do the Canadian thing and close the barn door after the horse has departed.  :rage:
Security isn't the only issue.

It's only a matter of time before someone shows up at a strip mall medical clinic and is sent on his way because the doctor there has never seen Ebola or plague before.

Talk about a false economy!
Save a few bucks on police and then spend a fortune cleaning up whatever mess happens. 

Suddenly the Americans demanding that we show passports seems very reasonable.
As a Canadian I am embarrassed.
Port security is important, but can only go so far: the tightest port in the world can still be flattened by a bomb in a shipping container that blows up in the middle of the harbour, not yet having even reached the terminal.  It really takes two steps to get it right: security at the port that lands the cargo, and, more importantly, security at the port where it is embarked.
Looks like several ports along the way were pretty slack too.....UK, Algeria etc. what a BS story about just happening to meet up on the ship! Shared with disclaimers

Across the Atlantic by bus
Stowaways tell how they hid aboard cargo ship
By ALISON AULD The Canadian Press
Thu. Mar 27 - 4:42 PM

DARTMOUTH — The four men hunkered down in double-decker buses for roughly 12 days, eating nothing but a fistful of dates and drinking from a few bottles of water they had smuggled on board.

Two of the men say their transatlantic journey began in Algeria on March 1 when they stole onto ships to escape a life they describe as destitute and lacking opportunity.

It ended two weeks later when the vessel loaded with containers and vehicles arrived in Halifax, where they breezed past a lone commissionaire and sparked a national debate about security at one of Canada’s busiest ports.

The two men, being held in a jail in Dartmouth, recounted their voyage in an interview Wednesday with The Canadian Press, telling how they easily slipped past port officials on both sides of the Atlantic to seek asylum in Canada.

"We were scared, very scared that they (the ship’s crew) would throw us overboard," Dib Zohir, a 34-year-old house painter, said in French.

"When I saw the Maple Leaf (at the port), I realized I was in Canada and I couldn’t stop crying. I was happy. I was happy because I know in Canada you respect human rights."

Zohir said he got on a boat in his hometown of Skikda, Algeria, where he clambered up the anchor line of a container ship and hid on board, carrying only a small bag of dates, no documentation and no money.

He believes the vessel then travelled to Liverpool, England, but he had no way of knowing where he was and insists he had no help in sneaking aboard the ship in the Mediterranean port.

He also said he had no idea where the vessel was going, knowing only that he wanted to leave the impoverished country.

"I was poor, there are problems in Algeria and there are problems with Islam," Zohir, a practising Muslim, said as two security officials at the jail looked on and took notes.

When the vessel arrived in England, he tried to get into a trailer but found it locked and instead sneaked into one of seven GO Transit double-decker buses bound for Canada.

Inside, he said, he fell asleep for more than 20 hours in the rear of the second level of the bus. When he awoke, the bus was on a boat and at sea.

Zohir said he left the bus in search of water and, in a strange twist, says he found three other Algerians hiding on other buses below decks.

None knew what time of day it was, judging the passage of time by the turning off of lights since there was no sunlight coming into the belly of the large ship where the buses were located.

Fellow stowaway Rabah Debrai, who smuggled himself aboard a vessel in Algeria’s capital, Algiers, said he too didn’t know where the ship might take him or what he might face if he was caught on board or detained wherever they landed.

They said they had all heard stories of stowaways being tossed over the side of container ships by crews who didn’t want to be charged with having them on board.

For days, they said they darted in and out of the buses to skirt crew members as they passed by. Debrai said one of the four men broke down on the sixth day of their journey, convinced that they would be thrown overboard.

"He just couldn’t stop crying," Debrai, who left behind his three sisters and ailing mother, said in French. "He thought we would be cast out to sea."

Debrai, wearing a prison-issue blue T-shirt and grey sweatpants and sockless in sneakers without laces, said he feared he wouldn’t survive the trip since he had started coughing up blood while at sea.

"I didn’t know if I was going to make it," he said through a translator, relaying how he felt when the bay doors opened in Halifax and he knew he would get off.

"It didn’t matter if I was back in Algeria — finally I could get off the boat."

The 26-year-old pizza cook, with dark, tightly cropped curls and a grin missing several front teeth, said the men walked off the vessel in Halifax and passed by the commissionaire at the port’s main gate on March 16.

A woman directed them to the nearby Via Rail station, where they tried but were unable to buy tickets with foreign currency brought on by another stowaway.

They then travelled by taxi about 100 kilometres to Truro, where police arrested them before they attempted to board a train to Montreal.

The men said they plan on launching a hunger strike today to force officials to let them contact their families overseas and help them get proper identifying papers so they might be released.

"I am not a criminal," said Zohir, when asked about his detention and what would happen if he is returned to Algeria. "We’re not going back."

The case has drawn criticism from Senator Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate committee on national security and defence, who has argued the incident illustrates "a long list of failures" in port security.

A Via Rail clerk has said he tried to warn a Canada Border Services tip line that the men were at the station in Halifax but was told they couldn’t assist without names.

Canada’s public safety minister, Stockwell Day, has said port security must be tightened and that the Canada Border Services Agency would be reviewing what happened.

’We were scared, very scared that they (the ship’s crew) would throw us overboard.’

If 24 Billion has been spend on security since 911, I wonder why these storaways got into the country so easy and if that amount of money has not been enough, how much more is going to be needed?


This is a portion of that article

Totalling up the costs
No one I am aware of has ever added up just how many extra tax dollars that federal governments (Liberal and Conservative) have spent since the Sept. 11 attacks to upgrade Canada's defences against the perceived threat. And the numbers aren't easy to find.

Ottawa buries security spending in the budgets of several federal departments. But, after having CBC researcher Karin Marley mine the budget for clues and do several interviews with sources who are familiar with certain parts of the spending, here's my best estimate — $24 billion.

The breakdown is as follows.

Since the attacks, Ottawa has spent an additional $15 billion on domestic security. That includes a range of expenditures from paying domestic airlines to fit their planes out with reinforced doors on the pilots' cabins to installing costly high-tech detection scanners at Canadian ports and U.S./Canada land border crossings.

The other big expenditure that can be attributed to Sept. 11 is an increase in the military's budget. After subtracting the normal yearly increases in place before Sept. 11, the Canadian military has received an estimated $9 billion extra since 2002 to fight the Taliban.

Video: Bill Gillespie reports for CBC-TV (Real Media, 4:57)
Included in these figures: The RCMP's annual budget has increased by close to $1 billion since 2001. The budget of Canada's domestic spy agency, CSIS, has almost doubled.

Are we getting value for our money? Are we safer? Hard questions to answer.

It also seems that Halifax was short changed when money was being handed out to beef up security


These storaways are just the latest,I wonder how many more there were both here and other ports.